A common misconception among models is that you need a big book (or modeling portfolio) to get signed. Who promotes this notion? Photographers that want to make money of course.

The truth is that if you are qualified, pictures aren’t necessary to get signed to a fashion agency. It’s different for commercial agencies, but even in that case pictures you get from photographers are only helpful to an extent.

Images for getting signed to a fashion agency


Model portfolio ErinA fashion agency wants to see you exactly as you are. No makeup, no fancy lighting, and certainly no retouching. In the old days they wanted to see Polaroids. Today, simple digital snapshots work. When we take those we call them “Digital Polaroids”.

There are several views they want to see. We put ours on a digital contact sheet like the one pictured but you don’t need to come to us to get these pictures done. They’re simple to take and we have step-by-step instructions in a different blog: How to take your own digital Polaroids.

(Click on the image to see it larger)

What about all the beautiful images you have?

If you submit online to fashion agencies you can include a couple to show how you pose, but frankly, the new faces director at any major agency is going to be able to tell by the Digital Polaroids or snapshots you send.

Don’t agencies need professional images to show clients?

Yes, they will. They’re not likely to use many of the images you already have unless they’re tear sheets though. If you get signed, the agency will have specific images in mind for you. Some will pay for them and later charge it against your earnings (be sure to recommend us). Some may have arrangements made where you can get them for free, but more often they’ll send you to specific photographers for the exact images they want in your book and make you pay for them.

Some exceptions.

If you are with an agency in a different area, or have just left a competing agency, if up to date you’re current book will work. And you can always supplement a new look with a couple commissioned images.

Open calls.

Many agencies have open calls where they can see you in person. You may be asked to bring your book. If you are young, physically qualified and without one, go anyway. If they turn you away citing that you don’t have a book, that’s usually a polite way for them to say they aren’t interested.

What if I’m not young and haven’t been with a major fashion agency?

If you’re already into your 20’s and haven’t yet been signed by an agency, you may want to consider working on a career as a commercial model while you also soliciting fashion agencies.

Getting signed to a commercial agency

There are many different types of commercial agencies and things can be quite different than with fashion agencies. The most popular agencies for commercial work are:

  • The commercial board of a fashion agency.
  • Commercial modeling agencies.
  • Talent agencies.

The commercial board.

Unless you are also physically qualified as a fashion model, you’d best be served going to someone other than a fashion agency. First of all, they often times want to same basic physical qualifications. If they do take you on to their commercial board, they will also have many of their fashion models on there. Often times they need to keep their fashion models happy and therefore may pay less attention to you.

Commercial modeling and talent agencies.

The main difference between these types of agencies is usually that commercial modeling agencies are usually strictly for modeling. Talent agencies that rep commercial models usually also represent actors. What they have in common is that commercial models at either will need to have some level of talent and be qualified for television commercials.

In many cases, a reel is as important as pictures – headshots. We’ll add a blog on commercial modeling but for now, just keep in mind that looks alone is not likely to get you signed.

Commercial head-shots.

Model portfolio highYour head-shot serves two important purposes. First, it’s a reminder of who you are and puts your face and name/submission together. More importantly, it can help sell you.

Model portfolio don'tIn the old days head-shots were often cheesy studio pictures of your face and hair. Today, a head-shot for commercial modeling can be almost whatever you want, but a good head-shot can be 1/2, ¾ or even full-length. They not only want to see your shape, but having your body in the shot lets you become more expressive and tells a better story.

Having diverse expressions and feel to your headshots can also be helpful. Make sure they aren’t racy or too revealing, they can cause concern for a commercial agency.


Are there more exceptions to the above? Yes, absolutely. But before investing into images, please read the Genres of Modeling, and more importantly: Positioning.